Who Controls The Charts Now?

•January 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Rage Against The Machine will be number one in the UK charts at Christmas, and it’s all thanks to a Facebook campaign. After years of being forced to choose from a bland selection of safe audio produce imposed on us by the major labels, does this mean that the charts are becoming more democratic?

Blast From The Past

As a sort of counter-culture protest against the stranglehold of anemic popitude that the X-Factor held over the charts for the past four years, a Facebook group was created with the aim of ousting the new in favour of something a bit more passionate. The title of the group is fairly self-explanatory – “RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FOR CHRISTMAS NO.1″.

‘Killing in the Name’ is a 17-year-old song from RATM’s eponymous debut album – the single was originally released in November 1992.

This week, ‘Killing in the Name’ sits at the top of the UK charts, having outsold Joe McElderry’s cover version of ‘The Climb’ by 500,000 to 450,000.

A Short Term Win-Win For Sony

The X-Factor is not really about music, it’s about celebrity, but most of all it’s about making money for the show’s creators and their partners. It pitches itself as a platform for revealing undiscovered talent, and to a certain extent it is – but that is not the main driver of the show. If it wasn’t popular and making money, it would be taken off air.

The RATM campaign is generating funds for the charity SHELTER, so at the very least, we can see that some tangible good has come out of this social media campaign to rescue the charts from the X-Factor.

However, in an interesting twist, both RATM and McElderry are signed to Sony – so this is actually a double win for one of the bastions of the old recording industry. It’s unlikely that anyone who was going to buy McElderry’s single would have chosen to buy ‘Killing in the Name’ instead, no matter what Facebook group they were exposed to, so it’s fair to suggest that his single would have sold 450,000 copies regardless. For Sony, they now have an extra half million downloads to add to that Christmas bonus.

Gaming The Machine

This might be a good week for Sony, but the underlying message is far less positive. The RATM Facebook page is proof – if any further were needed – that the Internet is indeed a very powerful marketing tool, and it is available to almost everyone.

Gaming the charts is by no means a new phenomenon – this has been going on a long time before the advent of the digital download, but it previously required significant industry connections and investment. However, now that mp3 downloads are counted towards chart positions, it means that gaming of this magnitude is officially open to the public – or at least, any web-savvy network of individuals with a common goal and powerful rallying cry.

4chan’s impressive orchestrated gaming of Time magazine’s person of the year poll showed how technical loopholes can be exploited in Web-based surveys, but the Facebook campaign is an entirely straight-up, above-board leveraging of people power.

The majors (and associated organs such as the RIAA) do need to re-evaluate their business models – and stop trying to sue people for P2P downloading. The evidence is building that there are many ways to get people to buy music online – I’m sure RATM will attest to that, but so will NIN, Radiohead, Imogen Heap, Johnathan Coulton and plenty of others who see opportunities in the places where the industry simply sees their status quo being eroded.

Does This Actually Change Anything?

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the charts are suddenly going to be dominated by Facebook groups – being the first is a crucial element in the saturated Web promotion arena, and further groups attempting the same trick will find it more difficult to replicate this level of success. The charts will always cater to the tastes of the majority, but if we can somehow add a bit more variety to those tastes, and wrest some influence away from the formula-driven hit predictors, then perhaps the culture of popular music will begin to show signs of innovation once more…

Taken from



Propellerhead’s Record

•January 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

If you haven’t already heard, Propellerhead has released a brand new recording application called, Record. Though Propellerhead doesn’t advertise it as a DAW software program, this is indeed what it is. There’s been a lot of buzz about Record, so chances are you already know something about it. But, even though Propellerhead’s promotional video is informative, and very entertaining, there’s nothing like actually using the program to hear how it sounds and feel how it handles. Over the past couple of months this is exactly what I’ve been doing, putting Record through it’s paces. Now, after spending some quality time with this new DAW, I feel comfortable commenting on Record and answering the questions I keep hearing from students, “Should I buy Record? Is it a good DAW and can it take the place of other DAW programs like Pro Tools and Logic?”

If you’re a registered user of Reason (any version, from 1.0 to 4.0), it’s hard to pass up the deal that Propellerhead is offering. For only $149 USD you can pick up a copy of Record. Plus, if you haven’t yet upgraded your last version of Reason, you’ll get the upgrade to Reason 4.0 in the package. So, if you’re a registered user of Reason, picking up a copy of Record is a no brainer.

Considering that this is only version 1.0 of Record, it’s a fantasy to think that it could replace a time tested DAW program like Pro Tools or Logic. But, Record does indeed sound impressive, and if you’re already comfortable using Reason, transitioning to working in Record is a piece of cake. Indeed, as I was composing and mixing in Record I couldn’t help but feel like I was using Reason on steroids, with a side of audio tracks. It’s really much more than this, but the user interface and general operations very closely mirror Reason’s interface and operations. For example, there’s a rack of virtual hardware devices, complete with a backside view and a jumble of cables, just like in Reason. And, the sequencer window in Record looks pretty much identical to the sequencer window in Reason. It’s the improvements that make me feel like Reason has been pumping up on steroids, such as the ability to have racks side by side, the virtual SSL mixer, and the Line 6 guitar and bass POD effect devices.

There’s a ton of great features in Record, far more than I can cover in a single blog. For example, its real-time audio time stretching algorithm that allows the audio tracks in your song to follow tempo changes. And, this is after you’ve recorded your audio to track. This feature is similar to Warp in Live and Elastic Audio in Pro Tools, and sounds just as good. It’s also easy to find fault with Record. For example, it doesn’t support third party plug-ins and there isn’t a bussing function on the mixer. But, these shortcomings are more than made up for in the fact that Record supports rewire. That’s right, it will operate as a rewire slave. This means that you could compose entirely in Record and then rewire your tracks into a Pro Tools HD system for a killer TDM mix down! Don’t try this with another DAW program. I’ve always said that the rewire slave mode is one of the coolest features about Reason, and I’m happy to see it lives on in Record.

To summarize, Record is an awesome program. And, it didn’t crash once on me while using it these past couple of months. If you use Reason and want to get into recording audio, Record is an excellent choice for your first DAW program. But, don’t expect it to replace a tried and true DAW program like Logic or Pro Tools. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if someday it has features that rival today’s most popular DAW programs.

Keep up the great work Propellerhead!

Happy New Year

•January 3, 2010 • 1 Comment

There were plenty of things to be happy about in 2009! The release of some magnificent albums, president Obama in office, the release of DJ hero on computer consoles. Propellerhead releasing Record for Reason and the release of Cubase 5.0. Taylor Swift wining her first MTV award and the social explosion of Twitter. But you know what? 2009 also had its fair share of crushing disappointments including the death of Michael Jackson and a string of TV stars including Brittany Murphy and Patrick Swayze. Yes this year had its fair share of ups and downs. I know we are all praying for this coming year to be better than the last and musically we hope so too. With a range of artists including, Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Kayne West, Beyonce, Outkast, Sade, Christina Aguilera and the return of Jennifer Lopez, 2010 sounds like it will be music to our ears.